Over half of Americans (more than 50 million people) are allergic to one or more allergens, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). And never is it more apparent than during the springtime, when seasonal allergies are likely to flare up.
Aside from the lousy, cold-like symptoms that allergies provoke (sneezing, congestion, watery/itchy eyes, runny nose, etc.), allergies can cost you days at work and money to seek out solutions. In fact, according to AAAAI, allergies may cost Americans close to billion a year in costs related to direct care and lost work productivity.
If you live in the United States, chances are you have allergies. At least, that’s the finding from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III).
It found that 54.3 percent of Americans between the ages of 6 and 59 tested positive to one or more allergens. A positive test also means that the person has a greater risk of asthma, hay fever and eczema.
While it would seem that, with so many people suffering from allergies, we would be well prepared as a population to handle them and know their causes, this is not the case.
Americans Fail Allergy Awareness
When it comes to allergy awareness, triggers, symptoms, prevention and treatment, the American population received largely failing grades, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s (AAFA) first National Allergy Awareness Test.
Mike Tringale, director of marketing and communications at AAFA stated, “When it comes to our health, we need to strive to do better than average. To raise the allergy grade, Americans need to learn how to manage symptoms so allergies do not impact their quality of life, by disrupting daily activities or preventing attendance at important events.”
Some of the most important findings of the survey, which included over 1,000 Americans, were:
- Only 28 percent of allergy sufferers reported they were “very knowledgeable” about their allergies.
- Most people are unaware of less talked about allergy triggers, like cockroaches.
- Although most people believe their allergy symptoms are controllable, eight out of ten reported that allergies disrupt their lives.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of allergy sufferers wait until symptoms occur to take action, rather than using preventative measures.
Most Common Allergens
According to NHANES III, the top four most common allergens include:
- Dust mites
About 25 percent of Americans tested positive to each one. Least common was the peanut, with only 9 percent reacting positively.
As for food allergies, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network says that eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-related allergic reactions:
- Tree nut (walnut, cashew, etc.)
Fall Season is Ripe for Allergies
While most people know that spring is the prime time for allergies to flourish, many do not realize that sniffling, sneezing, congestion and wheezing in the fall may be due to allergies, not a cold.
“Unfortunately, seasonal allergies are not just about springtime. In some cities, the pollination of different plants, changing weather and other environmental factors can cause a greater impact for allergy sufferers during the fall than in the spring,” said Derek Johnson, MD, an allergist at Temple University Medical Center and a medical advisor to AAFA.
Tips to Combating Allergies
No matter what the season, one of the best ways to fight allergies is with prevention. And, the following tips can help keep allergy flare- ups from occurring at all.
- When pollen and mold counts are high, spend more time indoors.
- Keep windows closed to keep pollen out.
- Wash bedding once a week in hot water–it will help get rid of dust mites and other allergy triggers.
- Keep your home as dust-free as possible.
- If you spend time outside, change your clothes and wash your hair when you come inside to remove pollen and other allergens.
- Filter your home’s air–many allergic reactions are triggered by airborne particles.
- If pet dander is a problem for you, keep pets out of the bedroom (or don’t get any pets to begin with).
- Use dehumidifiers in basements and other damp areas of your home where mold could grow, and be sure to clean them once a week.
Tips for Food Allergies
Fighting food allergies can be a bit trickier, as hidden ingredients, particularly wheat and peanuts, can be anywhere. Be sure to read food labels carefully and if you eat out, let the server know that you absolutely cannot have certain ingredients.
The good news is that there are a number of ways to ease your outdoor allergies that don’t cost much money and that don’t take much effort to do. If you are one of the many people battling with seasonal allergies this spring, try out as many of the tips below as you can … and you should experience a great deal of relief.
Minimize Your Allergies With These 12 Tips
- Keep your windows closed to keep pollen out (this is especially important from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. when plants release most of their pollen).
- Use your air conditioner instead of opening windows, and ideally use an air conditioner that has an allergy-reducing HEPA filter in it.
- Check the daily pollen and mold counts (AAAAI’s National Allergy Bureau has daily pollen counts for locations across the country). If counts are high, stay indoors as much as possible. Also stay indoors if it’s windy, as dust and pollen will be blown about.
- Clean your home frequently to reduce pollen, mold, dust and other allergens.
- Wash your bedding once a week in hot water to help get rid of dust mites and other allergy triggers.
- Shower before you go to bed. This will help wash away any pollen, mold and other allergens that have accumulated in your hair and on your body.
- Always wash your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove pollen and other allergens.
- Have someone else mow your lawn. Cutting the grass will expose you to a host of pollens and molds (the same goes for raking leaves in the fall).
- Wipe off surfaces you touch often. Surfaces such as computer keyboards, countertops, furniture, door handles and appliances can be loaded with allergens. When you touch these areas, the allergens are transferred to your hands and then likely to your eyes, nose and mouth, potentially worsening your symptoms. Giving these a wipe with a microfiber cloth can keep all types of allergens to a minimum.
- Resist the temptation to hang your clothes out in the sun to dry. When you bring them inside, they’ll be covered in pollen and mold.
- Get away for a while. If you can spare a few weeks, great, but even a week-long vacation to a low-pollen area (such as a beach) can be a much-needed reprieve.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
How to Combat Spring Allergies
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
Allergy Action Plan